Going into the family business can be loaded with pitfalls. For , the 23-year-old son of 1986 Indy 500 winner and 3-time Indy car champion , those pitfalls come in the form of massive shoes to fill and expectations that are almost impossible to meet.
And now, after six years as an car driver, the second-generation driver will tackle those expectations directly-while standing in the shadow of his father-turned-team owner-with the announcement that Graham will represent the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team as its lead driver for 2013 and beyond.
"It's awfully exciting for me," said the Ohioan. "It's a great opportunity to be a part of this team and with the sponsors that we have behind us. For me, it's a bit of a fresh outlook, really. As I look towards next year and beyond, this is a great group and a great organization here, and everybody is aimed to achieve the same goal which is to win races and championships. I think together we can do so."
If there's one area of sensitivity for Rahal, it's the notion that he's had to move back home to keep his career going. But with his own cache of sponsors, as he illustrates, driving for his father was done by choice, rather than necessity.
"I think this has been a long time coming," he opined. "I think everybody probably knew that eventually this would be the case that we would all be together under one roof. But here we are and I'm extremely excited. It's a great day for myself and for the team and for our family and for our sponsors really. For TBC Retail, which I think everybody knows from the last couple of years. But I think you'll see primarily Midas and Big O on our car, and also Valvoline being back in the sport, it means a lot to have us all together. It answers all those questions of why I don't race for dad, that's for sure.
Leaving the 4-car Ganassi Racing stable will also allow Rahal to be the primary focus of the RLL team, which is co-owned by David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. With one win to his credit-in his IndyCar Series debut in 2008, Rahal is pulling out all of the stops to emulate his father's lofty achievements in the sport.
"Well, I think as far as being the focal point, well, I think everybody needs that to achieve a certain amount of success as a driver," he said. " It's always difficult to, if you know that you're not the focus or the primary focus of a team, that's difficult for anybody to keep it's not an effort thing, necessarily, but to keep clicking on all cylinders andexpect that things are just going to go your way. It takes effort from everybody and focus from everybody to achieve the ultimate goal which is winning races.
"That's why you see the Penske guys, the Target guys can do it so consistently, because every single individual on that team is focused on that program. So here we're going to have that."